Give the elders their due

The other day I visited an old age home with a friend of mine. It was his father’s death anniversary so he wanted to spend time with these people who do not live with their children or relatives.

Published: 09th October 2013 12:12 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th October 2013 12:13 PM   |  A+A-


The other day I visited an old age home with a friend of mine. It was his father’s death anniversary so he wanted to spend time with these people who do not live with their children or relatives. After the customary introduction with the in-charge, my friend started conversing with the inmates.

A lady who was probably in her early 70s started chatting about their daily routine. But within a few minutes she was talking about her personal life. It was very sad to listen to her. Though her children are doing well in life they did not choose to have her with them.

As she continued telling us about the sacrifices she had made to raise her family I could not continue to listen.

It was depressing to learn how a son had abandoned his mother.

I wondered what in the world makes us abandon our parents and elders. Have we lost respect for elders in general? The Indian family system has always been a close-knit one. The nuclear family — with only parents and children — has been in vogue only for the last few decades. But in the past, grandparents lived with us. In some families like mine, we even had uncles and aunts living with us. Elders were part of our system at all times. We were taught to respect and obey them. My grandfather told me stories from the epics, about our culture, patriotism, morals and humanity. My grandmother made us yummy dishes that were traditional, tasty and healthy. She taught us to care and love. But those were the days when we were not ruled by technology. We were not spending time watching television or browsing the Internet. Those were the days when it was not the fashion to not know your own relatives or say that you do not have time to join your family for festivals or marriages.

It was during that period when the old were equated to the wise. They were always sought for a clarification or solution. They were revered and admired as well. But now things are quite different.

Elders are now seen as a burden. Even if they are part of a family they are considered ‘baby sitters’ or ‘caretakers’; they are allowed to be part of the system only if they are of some material benefit. Their advice and suggestions are seen as interference and intrusion. I believe, as a society, we’ve become desensitised to the key values we were taught  in our childhood. This bigotry extends beyond our homes. Even in public, the seniors are not given the kind of treatment they used to get in the past.

You do not see youngsters stepping aside to let an old man go first or allowing an old lady to take their place at a counter, or offering a seat in the bus when an elderly gentleman travels standing.

These are small but great things that we all can do to make a difference.

Cindy K Sproles, an author, reminds us in ‘And when they (elders) lose their confidence after a fall, remember the numerous times they held us close after a tumble, then encouraged us to forge ahead. It was our parents who cheered us through the rough times as a child and who allowed us to lean against them as adults. When the frustration of the added “stuff” — walkers, canes, or wheelchairs which have to be lugged out the door and to the car just to take them to the post office — strikes, remember the diaper bags, the bottles, the extra clothes, snacks, and “stuff” they toted on their shoulders, while you rested on their hip, legs dangling, and arms squeezing their necks. It was a chore then and it’s still a chore, but worth the effort — worth the love.’

How true these words are…. If we recall our childhood days, parents or grandparents were our heroes but as we grew we changed our perception.

We need to realise that they are still the same individuals who carry the same care and affection they had for us when we walked holding their fingers.

Let us not let go of those hands now, not when they are old, please.

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